Published February 12th, 2012 by Walker Childrens
Picture and Synopsis from the Goodreads book page
Many readers know the tale of Robin Hood, but they will be swept away by this new version full of action, secrets, and romance.
Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in.
To start off this review I want to warn you, this is not going to be a nice review. I always try my hardest to be even-handed with my reviews, pointing out the good AND bad in every book I read. But every now and then a book comes along that I dislike so much I cannot be fair or even-handed. Scarlet is one of those books. I have been looking forward to reading this for months! I love fairytale retellings, I love the story of Robin Hood, and I was intrigued at the idea of “Will Scarlet” being a girl. I was so excited about this book that when I saw it on the library shelf I practically pole vaulted over a group of people to get to it before anyone else saw it. It was almost something out of Mission Impossible. Unfortunately, it was a HUGE waste of my time and I ended up finishing it and then practically throwing the book back at the library’s book drop just to get rid of it.
A few words about the plot. The plot itself was not a bad one! Scarlet is posing as a boy in the band of thieves and a thief-taker who she has had a previous run in with shows up in town. Not only does she have to help the band protect the townspeople but has to worry about not being captured by this sadistic and evil man. This was all good. The plot moved a bit too slow and so most of the really good stuff was in the end, but I could have overlooked that. It was also painfully predictable. About page forty or fifty I remember thinking to myself, I know who Scarlet is, I know how she knows Gisbourne, and I know her back story. Well, it took until page 230 but I was right! I wish I wasn’t because it made it annoying and stupid. The ending was also a major fail, but I’ll get to that when I go through the awful characters.
Now, let’s start off with Scarlet. She is an infuriating character. She is strong, smart, witty, and very clever. Those are all fantastic things and I was so happy to see it after a run of being disappointed with YA heroines. Unfortunately Scarlet was not only all those good things but also intermittently a complete idiot, selfless to the point of being suicidal, and her inner dialogue made me want to scream in frustration. She runs around with two guys practically throwing themselves at her feet and insists on thinking “No, it’s impossible that they like me that way, impossible!”. Wake up you moron! She starves herself simply because she feels guilty that other townspeople can’t afford to eat. Um, okay. And you dying of starvation is going to help them how? They already depend on you and the band to help put food on their table so again…starving is going to help them how exactly? Yeah, that’s what I thought! And I really don’t understand why her inner dialogue was always in “commoner” english….she’s a noblewoman in disguise, which wasn’t that hard to figure out, so why do her thoughts speak commoner too? Irritating! She also says more than once that she despises being a woman. That’s a great message to send young girls! Then at the end, my God the end. She is the runaway fiance of thief-taker Gisbourne (which I completely called by the way), and decides that she has a great idea to save Robin from being killed by him. Why, she’s just going to turn herself into Gisbourne and agree to marry him! That sounds like a great idea! He only cut your face up, was prepared to force you into marriage at age 13, and tried to kill you when you said no! Wait, I smell more selfless suicidal behavior here.
On to the unnecessary love triangle. I didn’t like the love triangle idea to begin with, it came across as forced and contrived. But it got worse when I realized that both males in this love triangle are complete and utter pigs. First there’s John. He’s a typical playboy, flirts with anything that wears a skirt and takes more than a few to bed just because he can. Suddenly, for no apparent reason except that he finally saw her in a skirt, John decides he’s in love with Scarlet. He then proceeds to tell everyone in town that she is his girl, despite her saying absolutely not. He consistently violates her boundaries without invitation and takes advantage of her in vulnerable states to kiss her, hug her, or cuddle up with her to sleep. She continues to tell him that she is not interested in him, yet somehow he thinks that persisting will make him more attractive to her at some point. Right, whatever. Don’t like John at all.
But then there’s Robin. What the hell happened to Robin?! He starts of as gallant and brave and strong and all those lovely things we think of when we imagine Robin Hood. Except where Scarlet is concerned. He spends half his time trying to convince her that he’s interested in her, and the other half of his time ignoring her and treating her like trash. Well, that’s attractive! Then when John starts showing interest in Scarlet he loses his damn mind and turns into JealousRobinHood. Jealousy, always so attractive in YA right? But just to endear him to Scarlet further, he bosses her around and generally acts like he owns her. Then the best part! He calls her a tease repeatedly for “leading John on”, when she has done nothing but tell John to leave her alone. Then he proceeds to call her a whore because John kissed her. That’s right, John….kissed….her, but she’s the whore. The innocent, no experience with men, girl is a whore because a guy kissed her, but let’s talk about all those girls you were with in the Crusades shall we? Go to hell Robin, you’re a bastard too.
Much was the only good character because he was sweet, kind and did everything he could to be useful to the band despite only having one hand. I loved Much! Too bad he was a secondary side character at best.
As I think more on this book’s horrid characters, I have come to the conclusion that I blame Twilight for this. I really do. Because Stephenie Meyer became a HUGE bestseller all other YA authors are following her lead. And thus we have a wave of pathetic, weak, stupid, selfless, depressing, self hating heroines who have zero instinct for self-preservation. And all heroes in YA books suddenly have become controlling, possessive, hypocritical, judgemental, sexist pigs. Twilight, my hatred for this book is your fault.